By Dennis Nichols
If this week’s ‘Countryman’ isn’t published, it may be because there’s no one left to do it; on Earth that is. That’s because for the umpteenth time the world is/was supposed to end, or life be radically disrupted on a specific date – this year on Saturday, September 23.
That’s when certain celestial bodies align, and/or the mysterious Planet X is scheduled to have an apocalyptic ‘encounter’ with Earth that will make recent weather disasters look like child’s play.
Well, that’s what some internet doom-preachers and religious fundamentalists are peddling. Thank goodness most of the scientists and astronomers people trust say it is, and has always been, a hoax. Rather, there are other clear and present threats to our planet to deal with.
Actually though, the end-of-worlders seem to have a point in their prediction since there indeed will be an alignment of celestial bodies on that day; our sun in the constellation Virgo, the moon at her (Virgo’s) feet, Leo’s nine stars along with the planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars at her head, and Jupiter at her centre.
Regular astronomers give it no special significance. However, the doom prophets and some evangelical Christians see it as the unfolding of the bible’s Revelation 12: 1-2 prophecy heralding end times (read it). Others see it as abused Earth’s justly-deserved cataclysmic climax.
But we need not look to the heavens to know that the Earth is in upheaval. Just look around.
Even as I write this piece, I am in awe and heavy-hearted over what has happened in the Caribbean, Texas, Florida, and Mexico these past few weeks; in addition to the dozens of other weather-related catastrophes around the globe this year from deadly floods in South Asia to mudslides in Switzerland. Since Tuesday I’ve been trying to get in touch with a friend in Dominica to no avail. I know no one in Barbuda, St. Martin or Puerto Rico, but if I did, the situation would likely be somewhat similar.
Last Sunday’s light-hearted jab at Irma and friends was a necessary diversion – a break in the month-long narrative putting man versus nature. It isn’t a luxury that we can afford for long. The grim business of forecasting, forestalling, and fighting nature’s wrath must go on.
Three major hurricanes and two powerful earthquakes in less than one month in a relatively small region of the planet should give us cause for real concern. This south-eastern US-Caribbean-Mexico triangle has been repeatedly hit by natural disasters over the years, but the recent onslaught is pretty much unprecedented. And what about Guyana?
With a dearth of major natural disasters occurring here, Guyana has been called a blessed country in that aspect. I imagine, however, that we make up for that with an abundance of small mostly man-made ones.
And since we seem to have grown accustomed to them, we can at least sympathise with those of our Caribbean neighbours who can hardly be expected to do the same with those mega-hits.
With forecasts that destructive weather-related phenomena will be increasing in both frequency and ferocity, we can expect our neighbours in the region to be on tenterhooks not only after June 1 in coming years, but all year round in fearful apprehension of another September 2017. But are we in this country immune from such devastation? Maybe not!
Since the turn of the century we seem to be getting hit by increasingly heavier rainfall, floods, and what the media calls freak storms, of which, there have been several this year. Weather patterns are changing. Global warming and climate change are acknowledged by all but a few scientists and meteorologists.
Average global temperatures have risen to the point that the ten warmest years on record have been observed after 1998. This is in turn linked to extreme weather events like heat waves and hurricanes.
Two years ago, NASA scientists noticed a change in stratospheric wind patterns linked to climate change. I don’t know much about this, but if true, isn’t it possible that we can be struck by an ‘off course’ hurricane in the not-too-distant future? Should that happen, it could be a tragedy of mind-boggling proportions!
With an almost 300-mile coastline, much of which is below sea level; with more than three-quarters of our population living there; with the majority of economic activity including almost all of our agricultural production, and with rising sea levels, this narrow stretch of land is extremely vulnerable to flooding and wind damage.
Think back to what happened in 2005! Now to that scenario add an Irma, Harvey or Maria. Then pray. And remember it has been reported that the sea level in this part of the world is rising faster than the global average. Now decide if, in the event of a hurricane with accompanying storm surge, or, heaven forbid, a tsunami triggered by the underwater volcano Kick ‘em Jenny, would our mangroves, our seawall and our sluices give us adequate protection?
Should any of the above happen during a spring tide or at the peak of a rainy spell, imagine what the scenario would be? Several parts of our touted land of many waters would likely be severely inundated, maybe under several feet of water. Agriculture would be trashed, economic activity would grind to a near halt, drinking water would be contaminated, homes, businesses, hospitals, social and other institutions damaged or rendered inoperable, communication knocked out, transportation and public utilities compromised, and people – homeless, sick, and dying everywhere.
Those lucky or prescient enough to have evacuated to inland communities and higher ground may fear better but they too could be affected. Look at what happened in several hinterland areas recently from Kako to Linden.
Regardless of this dismal hypothetical picture, you may not still see Guyana, though vulnerable, as blessed, because nothing like that has ever happened in our admittedly brief history, nor is there any archaeological evidence of such.
But we do not exist in geographic isolation; nor do other countries, and if not natural disaster, what about the man-made variety. Between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, along with Vladimir Putin and some other world players, a different kind of apocalypse may be brewing.
A human-triggered nuclear blast of unimagined power might be a poetically just and fitting way to end the whole shambolic shebang; after all it supposedly all started with a ‘Big Bang’.
Or maybe the doom prophets are getting it right and ‘the big man up there’ having numbered Earth’s days, is just cutting us a little more slack – giving us a little more rope before He tightens the noose irrevocably and unleashes His own cosmic firebomb. If or when that happens we may wish we still had our weather disasters to deal with; at least then we could have blamed them for the distress and destruction we endured, and looked forward to rebuilding our lives.
The Atlantic hurricane season is peaking. The United States and North Korean leaders are hurling nuclear-barbed insults at each other. Earth is trembling. September 2017 is almost history. Will there be a September 2018? I guess so, but – who knows?
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